The most popular stories on www.farmanddairy.com in 2008:

January 1st, 2009 Farm and Dairy Staff

Here are the news stories you clicked again and again on our Web site in 2008, with starting with the “most clicked” at the top:

Thursday, June 24, 2008 (and updated June 26)
Pigeon King goes bankrupt

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Columbiana County man is using wind to power his home

Thursday, July 3, 2008
Ohio passes revamped line fence law

Thursday, November 13, 2008
California bans gestation crates, hen cages; which state is next?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Elanco/Eli Lilly to buy Monsanto’s Posilac (rbST) brand

Thursday, May 1, 2008
Washington takes action against Pigeon King International

Thursday, December 5, 2002
Go Navy! Ohioan brings farm skills to U.S. Naval Academy

Thursday, October 23, 2008
N-P-K nightmares: Fertilizer prices force farms to cut back

Friday, August 29, 2008
John Deere expanding U.S. tractor works; investing in Brazil

Farm and Dairy’s 2008 top stories in review

December 31st, 2008 Farm and Dairy Staff

Weather woes

Weather is always a hot topic in the farmhouse. In March, an ice storm hit northeastern Ohio and western Pa., followed by 23 inches of snow in some places. Snow emergencies were declared in 60 Ohio counties and homes and farms were without electricity for days. And in September, remnants of Hurricane Ike stalled over Ohio, creating sustained winds of 54 mph and occasional gusts of 75 mph and almost postponing the opening of the Farm Science Review. Massive power outages and incident-related debris impacted all 88 counties, and Gov. Ted Strickland declared a state of emergency. An estimated 2 million residential and business customers were without electricity, some for more than seven days.

Record beef recall

In February, a California-based slaughter plant voluntarily recalled more than 143 million pounds of beef — the largest recall in U.S. history — after the USDA discovered animal handling violations at the facility that resulted in improper inspections. The violations were brought to light by a Humane Society of the United States investigation and video. HSUS also sued USDA to prevent downer cattle from being slaughtered. By the time of the recall, most of the recalled beef had already been eaten. The investigation also led to criminal animal cruelty charges against plant employees.

Pigeon King

Iowa, Washington, South Dakota and Maryland investigated Canadian Arlan Galbraith’s company, Pigeon King International, as a possible Ponzi scheme. Galbraith declared the business bankrupt in June, blaming ‘fear mongers’ for the collapse. Galbraith revealed debts of more than $23.5 million owed to nearly 450 angry breeders and vendors across the U.S. and Canada, many of whom were stuck with hundreds of birds, no feed and no sales outlet.

Farm bill

In late May, Congress voted to override President Bush’s veto of the new farm bill. (Although one section was inadvertently omitted in the official copy and both chambers had to re-vote, the president had to re-veto and then Congress had to re-override the bill. Whew!)

New USDA leaders

Two-term North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer was named U.S. secretary of agriculture in February, replacing Mike Johanns, who resigned Sept. 20, 2007, to run for a U.S. Senate seat. And after the 2008 presidential election, President-elect Barack Obama nominated former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as his ag secretary.

The economy

The economy was a top F&D story in 2008 (“Build or bust: Dairies, suppliers seeing strong growth” July 2008). But as summer slid into fall, the grain markets also slid into the Dumpster. Corn futures hit 7.99 1/4 June 27 and now stand at 3.76; soybeans reached 16.35 July 3, and spiraled down to 8.62 in December. At the same time, farm inputs escalated, as we reported in October: Anhydrous ammonia up 55% in six months; straight urea up 67%; potash up 55%.

Wind power

As wind power grew in popularity during 2008, the Ohio Power Siting Board adopted rules for wind farms. The rules address issues like aesthetics, setback, noise, ice throw, blade sheer and shadow flicker. Salem resident Greg Courtney was one of the first in the area to install a wind turbine at his home.

Dairy labeling/rbST

Ohio and Pennsylvania adopted similar rules for dairy product labeling. New laws in both states allow dairy labels to say: From cows not supplemented with rbST. Claims such as “hormone-free” or “rbST-free” were banned. Many dairy farmers who were using rbST had to give it up when processors stopped accepting milk produced with the synthetic hormone. In August, Monsanto sold its rights to the rbST brand Posilac to Elanco.

Line fence law

In June, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed into law updates to Ohio’s line fence regulations. The new law changed who was responsible for fence construction and upkeep, and to what extent; asked county recorders to get involved in keeping records; and gave township trustees enforcement power during disputes. The law went into effect in late July.

DFA dilemma

Dairy Farmers of America discovered a former senior executive and a dairy producer received unauthorized payments from the co-op. In separate instances, investigators discovered a $1 million payment and a $185,500 payment that were never approved by the board. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission later ordered Dairy Farmers of America and former staffers to pay a penalty of $12 million for attempting to manipulate the Class III milk futures contract and exceeding speculative position limits in that contract.

COOL

Mandatory country-of-origin labeling went into effect Sept. 30, declaring retail commodities must carry a label to indicate a country of origin. Many meat packers, however, are taking an end-run around the controversial edict, saying their products will carry a “Product of the U.S., Canada and Mexico” label instead.

Beef merger blocked

The U.S. Department of Justice, along with 13 states’ attorneys general, filed an anti-trust lawsuit in October to block beef feeding and packing consolidation they said would harm the industry. The case sought to block the proposed acquisition of National Beef Packing Company LLC, by Brazil-based JBS S.A. Currently, JBS is the third-largest beef packer in the U.S., and National is the nation’s fourth-largest. JBS is also the top beef packer in the world. If not blocked, the purchase would boost JBS into the status of largest U.S. beef packer and leave just three significant competitors — JBS, Tyson and Cargill — with 80 percent of the U.S. beef market.

Prop 2

In November, California voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative that bans gestation crates, laying hen cages and veal crates. Producers were given until Jan. 1, 2015, to change their housing systems. The ballot initiative was backed mainly by the Humane Society of the United States, which previously helped pass similar ballot initiatives in Arizona and Florida. Farm groups nationwide were concerned with the measure and its eventual impacts on agricultural production across the country.

What was hot online?

And here are the most popular links in 2008 from Farm and Dairy’s Web site.

Pigeons point to Ponzi scheme

March 13th, 2008 Andrea Zippay

SALEM, Ohio — The Iowa Attorney General‘s office has wrapped up its most recent investigation of Pigeon King International, the Canadian-based pigeon breeding company, and warns potential breeders to look twice before signing with the company.

Demands

Late last year, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller demanded PKI owner Arlan Galbraith provide various details about his operation and plans for the future amid concerns the entire operation was a fraud.

In examining documents Galbraith provided, “we did not receive information that eliminated our concern this was a Ponzi scheme,” said Iowa attorney Steve Moline.

A Ponzi scheme is defined as an investment fraud in which early investors are paid with money obtained from later ones in order to create the illusion of profitability.

Moline also said that in Canadian media interviews, Galbraith admitted he had not sold any pigeons to anyone other than new investors since 2005.

How it works

Pigeon King International, which bills itself as the world’s second-largest pigeon breeder, invited investors and buyers to invest as much as $50,000 to $100,000 or more to buy hundreds of pigeon breeding pairs.

Galbraith, in turn, contracted with the growers to buy back the offspring. He told them the pigeons would be sold to new investors, and on the marketplace for meat or as pets.

Monitored

Moline said Galbraith has agreed not to solicit new growers in Iowa, and to fulfill payment for all current contracts. He said he was not aware of any other states investigating the matter.

A spokesperson for Ohio’s attorney general said there have been no complaints about the company reported here.

Related articles

Pigeon idea may not fly: Iowa investigating company for scheme (2/21/2008)
You’re raising what? Pigeons! (9/13/2007)

Pigeon idea may not fly: Iowa investigating company for scheme

February 21st, 2008 Andrea Zippay

SALEM, Ohio — The Iowa attorney general’s office is investigating Canadian-based Pigeon King International as a possible fraudulent scheme.

Background

Pigeon King International Inc., which bills itself as the world’s second-largest pigeon breeder, is based in Waterloo, Ontario.

The company, owned and operated by Arlan Galbraith, invites investors and buyers to invest as much as $50,000 to $100,000 or more to buy hundreds of pigeon breeding pairs.

Growers enter contracts with Galbraith that promise a guaranteed selling price — and market — for the pigeons from Day 1.

Iowa no-no

“We believe that potential investors or buyers should be very cautious and examine the situation very carefully, especially the question of whether there is a realistic and independent market for pigeons now and in the future,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a December statement.

Miller has issued a formal demand to Galbraith to provide various details about his operation and plans for the future, saying he may be “misleading consumers regarding the true viability of establishing several large pigeon processing plants within a time frame that would allow the business opportunity … to have a legitimate independent business purpose other than providing inventory for new growers in furtherance of a ‘Ponzi’ type of investment scheme.”

Phone calls to see whether any complaints were filed with the Ohio attorney general were not returned.

Fear mongers

Galbraith, who was repeatedly not available for comment, did speak his mind in the September issue of The Pigeon Post, his company newsletter, posted on his Web site:

“The people who find fault with the pigeon industry are always those who are not dealing with us. … If they would spend their time minding their own affairs and keeping their noses out of other peoples’ business, they would be much better off and the world in general will be a much better place.”

Not so sure

The accusations of pigeon raising being a scheme don’t fly with Monroe County, Ohio, breeder David Rinkes, whose hatchery business was featured in Farm and Dairy in September 2007.

At that time, Galbraith declined to give out hard numbers that revealed his annual sales or production, or hard figures to show the company’s growth and demand.

Rinkes, who also serves as a business development manager for Pigeon King, said in September the birds he sells are sent to other start-up breeders, or are sold as pets or for meat.

“I heard rumors about it [being a scheme], but I don’t believe it. He’s been real good to us,” Rinkes said of Galbraith, who bought 100 pairs from him in late December.

Rinkes said he did receive notice last spring that purchase prices would drop — Galbraith pays Rinkes $25 for each young bird, but newer breeders’ contracts only allow to be paid up to $18 per bird — but there have been no surprises otherwise.
“I ain’t never had a problem in two years with him,” Rinkes said.

The Iowa attorney general continues investigating the matter.

Related Story:
You’re raising what? Pigeons!.

You’re raising what? Pigeons!

September 13th, 2007 Andrea Zippay

WOODSFIELD, Ohio – A 32-by-40 pole building stands just off the edge of the gravel road, its new red metal siding gleaming in the bright September sunshine.
Other than a small white sign posted on one end of the barn, there’s no indication that this is anything more than a car garage, or that this place is involved in a business so cutting-edge, so alternative, so explosive, and so profitable.
David and Marlene Rinkes’ D&M Hatchery has been in business only a year, but already the couple is turning profits from breeding and raising pigeons on contract for the Canadian-based Pigeon King International.
Multimillion operation. Pigeon King founder Arlan Galbraith runs a multimillion dollar business from his Ontario headquarters, but declines to give out hard numbers that reveal his annual sales or production, or just how far-reaching this business is becoming.
However, the Rinkeses are proud of their 100 pairs of breeders and their offspring they sell, and offered up their numbers freely.
David Rinkes said in the year since he and Marlene started their hatchery, they’ve grown to average selling 100 young pigeons every month straight to Galbraith. Those 20-week-old birds are crated and hauled from the Woodsfield-area farm at $25 a pop, clearing $18,000 to $20,000 a year profit for the couple.
Marlene has made the birds her full-time business, and David still drives truck to supplement their income. But looking down the road, both see themselves expanding their numbers and spending all their time at home.
Jumped right in. David spied an ad for Pigeon King International in Farm and Dairy more than a year ago, and was surprised at the opportunity advertised: guaranteed sales, fast and high return on investment, easy work. It sounded like a perfect job for Marlene, and the perfect income boost for both of them, he thought.
So the couple called Ontario for information, then found themselves visiting two other pigeon breeders in Ohio’s Amish country to see their setups and hear their stories.
July 3, 2006, they moved 100 pairs of breeders into their newly built pole building and set out on a 10-year adventure.
Still small. The Rinkeses say their roost of pigeons is small when put up against other breeders who have several hundred pairs. But this size and its requirements is perfect for them, and likely for many others looking to get involved in the business.
It was a size they could afford, since they had to buy the birds, put up the building, dump gravel for the flooring, build laying boxes, and buy feeders and waterers. David said their initial investment was about $30,000 total, paid for with a home improvement loan.
So far, it’s paying off and bringing big smiles to Marlene’s face.
“It’s easy work, really, really easy, especially for the money,” Marlene said.
“We can make up to $2,500 a month without leaving home! Tell me how that’s bad,” David challenged.
No stress. Marlene said she spends about two hours per day with the birds, one hour each in the morning and evening for feeding and watering, putting on leg bands, and just spending time in the barn.
“There’s really no stress in this,” she admitted.
She checks nesting boxes for new eggs, for young birds just hatched, and watches the young birds fill in their naked bodies with feathers ranging from white to black to iridescent green and purple. She watches as they stray from the box a month later, jumping to the floor and learning to fly.
“It’s easy, a real good job for a woman. You just can’t be prissy about the poop,” she admits.
Both Rinkeses see raising pigeons as a lucrative business for many people, including retired folks or very young people, and possibly even the disabled who have trouble finding other income.
“They’re enjoyable and fun. It’s peaceful to just sit and watch them fly around,” Marlene said.
Options. Though the Rinkeses chose to put up a new pole building and secure the inside with plastic netting to protect the birds, they say there are other options for pigeon housing.
David suggests looking at old house trailers, hoop-shaped tarp buildings or school buses as inexpensive opportunities for pigeon houses.
Galbraith agrees. His how-to guide says pigeons will adapt to existing barns or sheds, truck boxes, old mobile homes, or grain bins with simple modifications.
The pigeons are extremely hardy, too. They tolerate extreme heat and cold well as long as the barn is ventilated and there are no drafts directly on the birds.
All it takes is a watchful eye, protection from predators and disease, plenty of water and some pelleted game bird feed.
“This is really something almost anybody can do,” David said.
Why pigeons? Galbraith has more than 50 years experience with pigeons, and his current genetic strain, Strathclyde, are flying-type sporting pigeons used to breed high performance flyers. The pigeons aren’t used for shooting, dog training, or shows.
David Rinkes said as strange as it sounds, some wealthy people buy pigeons as pets. He’s been told boxing legend Mike Tyson paid $50,000 for one pigeon to keep strictly for pleasure.
And the Rinkeses acknowledge after their breeders have lived their 10-year productive life, they’re sent for slaughter to be served in high-end restaurants as $100-per-plate squab or for pigeon pie or soup.
They don’t necessarily like the idea, but accept it as the end source for their birds.
In the meantime, while they’re fulfilling their 10-year contract with Galbraith, they let their birds fly free inside the pole building and give them the attention they need.
In return, the Rinkeses are collecting a monthly paycheck they’re pumping back into the business, and keep their eye on the opportunity over the next 10 years.
“You spend it to keep them alive and make more. It’s a real good opportunity.”
(Reporter Andrea Zippay welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at azippay@farmanddairy.com.)